Candidates Await Final Counts in Missouri, Kansas Primaries

Posted August 4, 2004 at 9:06am

The Republican Congressional primary in Kansas’ 3rd district remained too close to call Wednesday afternoon as just 87 votes separated the two leading candidates.

Former Overland Park City Councilman Kris Kobach (R) held a narrow edge over 2002 nominee Adam Taff (R) with all but provisional ballots counted. Both received 44 percent of the vote with former state Rep. Patricia Barbieri-Lightner (R) picking up nine percent.

Taff, who entered the primary as a heavy favorite, did not concede the race Tuesday night, noting that a number of provisional ballots were outstanding.

Such ballots are issued to voters who encounter eligibility problems at the polls. A final determination of how many of these votes should be counted is not likely until next week.

Three-term Rep. Dennis Moore (D) awaits the winner of the Republican primary. He was unopposed for his party’s nomination Tuesday.

In the other extremely close-fought race of the day, state Rep. Russ Carnahan defeated Washington University professor Jeff Smith by less than 2,000 votes with all 318 precincts counted in the St. Louis-based 3rd district.

Carnahan lost his home base in St. Louis City and St. Louis County to Smith by more than 3,500 votes but made up those margins in the more rural St. Genevieve and Jefferson counties.

Carnahan faces perennial candidate Bill Federer (R) this fall in the heavily Democratic district.

Elsewhere on a crowded day of Midwestern House primaries, former Kansas City (Mo.) Mayor Emanuel Cleaver (D) won the right to replace retiring 5th district Rep. Karen McCarthy (D) while former state Sen. Joe Schwarz beat out the son of retiring Rep. Nick Smith to claim the GOP nomination in Michigan’s 7th district.

Cleaver’s 60 percent to 40 percent victory over former Council on Foreign Relations fellow Jamie Metzl (D) was significantly more hard-fought than the final outcome suggested.

Metzl, a political unknown making his first run for elective office, repeatedly attacked Cleaver on ethical issues, forcing the two-term mayor on the defensive. Cleaver was also outspent by Metzl.

But by relying on name identification built up during his mayoral tenure as well as the strong support of the Congressional Black Caucus — led by fellow Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay (D) — Cleaver prevailed. He is a strong favorite in the general election against wealthy businesswoman Jeanne Patterson, who won the five-way Republican primary with 55 percent of the vote.

Schwarz made good in his second run for the southern-tier 7th district, beating out a crowded field that included attorney Brad Smith.

Schwarz took 28 percent to 22 percent for Smith. Former state Rep. Tim Wahlberg finished third with 18 percent while state Rep. Clark Bisbee, who had the support of Michigan Right to Life and the state1s Chamber of Commerce, took 14 percent. Schwarz last ran for the seat 12 years ago when he lost in the primary to Nick Smith. He will face organic farmer Sharon Renier (D) in the fall in a district that tilts heavily toward Republicans.

While the news that Missouri Gov. Bob Holden (D) had been upset in the primary by state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) dominated the media coverage in the Show Me State on Wednesday, Smith’s near upset of Carnahan was nearly as amazing.

Carnahan entered the race with a number of advantages, the largest of which was his last name. He is the son of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and former Sen. Jean Carnahan and the grandson of former Rep. A.S.J. Carnahan.

Smith, on the other hand, was not even a blip on the political radar screen, having never run for elected office before.

But, powered by the endorsement of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) and a surprisingly strong fundraising effort, Smith emerged as Carnahan’s main challenger, surpassing state Sen. Steve Stoll and former state Rep. Joan Barry in the process.

Stoll took 18.5 percent of the vote Tuesday; Barry received 17.8 percent.

The Kansas race remained the only contest of the day not to be decided at press time, with Kobach holding an 87-vote lead over Taff.

Kobach’s seeming victory comes despite beginning the race with a major name identification disadvantage and being heavily outspent by Taff.

Kobach’s campaign did little television advertising in the primary, choosing instead to sink its funds into direct mail and phone calls targeted very narrowly at likely Republican primary voters.

He cast himself as the conservative in the race, repeatedly emphasizing that Taff favors abortion rights.

If the results hold, it will be the second time in as many cycles that a Republican underdog has won the GOP nod.

In 2002, Taff upset conservative physician Jeff Colyer (R) 52 percent to 48 percent to win the nomination. He went on to lose to Moore 50 percent to 47 percent.